With letters from Jamie Lee Hamilton, Kevin Dale McKeown, and Stan Persky
I am but one of several openly gay staff members at and contributors to the Straight. Our editor Charlie Smith consulted me on several of the LGBT-related stories in this Pride issue and I gave him some ideas, such as the splash page about how the Olympics can be gay-inclusive.
When he was concerned that the Style Watch story about the fetish night was too straight, I told him I thought it tied into the idea of the parade being about overcoming any shame about your sexuality, no matter who you are. It also helps to counteract the excessive media attention given to the outlandish costumes in the parade, which in turn feed into some of the negative stereotypes about gay men.
A number of our staff members had been holding several meetings to prepare for the Straight's entry into the parade (especialy since we had such a good time last year—also check out our photos). When we found out we would not be allowed to participate, it was a huge let-down. When we found out we were back in, we quickly tried to organize something again, but then were informed we were out again! With all the back and forth, it really destroyed morale and enthusiasm.
It was very disappointing not being able to participate in my own "community". I use that word tentatively because at times it's unclear to me who actually constitutes the community. I went through a long period of not feeling like I had a place in the community, but have since come to terms with the fact that I don't completely fit in but am okay with that.
Incidents like this one, however, remind me that within many communities, there tend to be individuals or organizations which tend to take over and purport to represent the community. This can be very alienating for those that don't fit in with their views or objectives. Or for those that hold a contrary view.
Although the community claims to be about diversity with the rainbow flag waved around, the diversity tends to focus on sexual diversity rather than different lifestyles and viewpoints.
I am glad that this incident has riled up response from individuals who feel strongly about the issue. Charlie reminded me that he did have a gracious response from John Boychuk, and that it's mostly volunteer efforts.
However, I think it's important that the related issues be raised for discussion and it's significant that people feel very strongly about it.
Below is a response from publicist Kevin Dale McKeown, who once wrote a gay column for the Straight and sent out the e-mail below to organize a writing campaign. As we get permission to publish some of the other responses, I will post them on this blog entry.
Have any thoughts on the matter? Send in a comment.
Excessive Pride Harasses Georgia Straight Out Of 2007 Parade
Vancouver Pride Society Tries To Manage The Media
From Kevin Dale McKeown (Q.Q. Writes ... Page 69)
By the time most of you read this the long weekend will have come and gone, and it will be too late to do anything about an outrage perpetrated by the Vancouver Pride Society this year, except to let them know what you think of their actions.
I am sending this to a couple hundred of my colleagues and professional acquaintances, many of whom are also good friends. You include the senior management at most of Vancouver’s arts and special event organizations, and many members of the working media. I have been an arts publicist in this town for nearly 20 years, and a journalist for 20 years before that, and have worked with most of you in one capacity or another, and I like to think that my email lists have breadth, if not depth.
I ask you each to consider this a personal request to spend a moment reading the linked blog item by Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith:
Mr. Smith’s entry pretty much says it all.
Many of you will know of my own historic connection to this story. I was the “gay columnist” in the Georgia Straight from 1970 to 1975, writing under the pseudonym “Q.Q.” I was present for most of the founding moments in the evolution of our “pride”, and I wrote it all down for those who were interested.
It is clear to me that the Vancouver Pride Society has lost all sense of what the hell it was all about. We sought freedom, and we made common cause with others who sought the same. We wanted to be able to speak our own minds and write our own stories. And to a degree that we couldn’t have imagined in 1975, we now can and do.
I think it is alarming that any group should feel it has the right to issue ultimatums to a local media outlet, threatening to deny them participation in a community event. Whatever you think of Georgia Straight proprietor Dan McLeod, and opinions are sharply divided, he is at least entitled to those same freedoms of expression we were making such a great hoo-ha about back in the early days of Gay Pride.
The Pride Parade is a public event held in a public place. To believe that you can restrict participation to media that will only tell the story as you dictate it is indeed an excess of Pride!
Please read Charlie Smith’s story at the link above, and Jamie Lee Hamilton’s succinct summary of why this so very wrong, which follows.
If this story makes you even a little bit angry, please write to Vancouver Pride Society president John Boychuk and his board members and let them know what you think. To make that easier I have bcc’d all of you but put the email addresses of all the board members in the “to” field. Just cut and paste and email away (just don’t “reply all”)! And please copy me. I’d love to know you were speaking out.
This certainly isn’t the biggest issue of the day, but I think it is important that the Vancouver Pride Society hear from a wide variety of other members of the media and the cultural community, letting them know that this sort bullying attempt at media manipulation is not what we expect from a mature community organization.
Thanks for reading this through. Hope you take a moment to write.
And here's Jamie Lee Hamilton's letter:
ORIGINAL EMAIL FROM JAMIE LEE HAMILTON
August 2, 2007
Vancouver Pride Society
CC Concerned GLBTQ Community Members
I just read an on-line news blog of the Straight www.straight.com, a paper which historically has supported Vancouver's queer community for a very long time. Its ties with our community run deep.
The Vancouver Pride Society, through a member of its executive board, Ken Coolen, kicked the Straight out of this year's parade.
It seems that a few feathers were ruffled regarding this week's Straight feature story, Pride Incorporated. Please see www.straight.com for the story
The Straight supplied our community way back in 1970 with our own gay page—Page 69, written by Kevin McKeown. For as long as I can remember, Dan Savage has written Savage Love, a racy and informative dear Landers advice-style column, geared to our gay and lesbian communities. Moreover, the Straight was the first paper to allow gays and lesbians to run classified ads seeking out same-sex partners. This was while mainstream press like the Sun were refusing gay ads and treating our community poorly.
It is absolutely disgusting that the Pride Society, through Ken Coolen, would treat this press, in the manner it has.
The Straight is a strong ally of our community and has showcased many of our out and proud writers, like Bill Richardson, Karen X. Tulchinsky and Michael V. Smith, among others. These award-winning writers regularly contribute to the Straight.
I think the Pride board must immediately offer the Straight, a formal written apology.
I encourage everyone who receives this post to voice their concerns to Pride President, Johm Boychuk, firstname.lastname@example.org outlining our grave concerns over Pride's mistreatment of a strong ally and supporter of our community.
Jamie Lee Hamilton
Ms Gay Vancouver X1
Community Hero 1997.
Here's a letter written by none other than Stan Persky himself:
NOTE FROM STAN PERSKY
We don't know each other, but I've been requested, along with various other people, to send you my opinion about the treatment of the Georgia Straight newspaper with respect to this year's Pride parade.
I think the run around they've been given by Pride concerning their participation in the event is pretty shameful. They've been a long time supporter of the gay movement in Vancouver and very early on, in the planning of this year's event, a place should have been reserved for them (and you should have anticipated that not reserving a place for them would only result in bad publicity).
By the way, I read the Straight's cover story and, perhaps oddly, didn't see it as a condemnation of Pride. Pride parade officials and organizers were liberally quoted in the story, and I think made a plausible case for their position, given that producing such a parade in 2007 is politically a very different matter than it was years and years ago when people of my generation were inventing the notion of public homosexuality.
I think the appropriate response to the situation would be a short letter to the editor of the Straight apologizing for the mistake and recognizing the long-standing role of the Straight in supporting the gay movement.